That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour (Hardcover)
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“A profound exploration of what it means for all of us to live—and to die—with dignity and purpose.” —People
“Visceral and lyrical.” —The Atlantic
As the American born daughter of immigrants, Dr. Sunita Puri knew from a young age that the gulf between her parents' experiences and her own was impossible to bridge, save for two elements: medicine and spirituality. Between days spent waiting for her mother, an anesthesiologist, to exit the OR, and evenings spent in conversation with her parents about their faith, Puri witnessed the tension between medicine's impulse to preserve life at all costs and a spiritual embrace of life's temporality. And it was that tension that eventually drew Puri, a passionate but unsatisfied medical student, to palliative medicine--a new specialty attempting to translate the border between medical intervention and quality-of-life care.
Interweaving evocative stories of Puri's family and the patients she cares for, That Good Night is a stunning meditation on impermanence and the role of medicine in helping us to live and die well, arming readers with information that will transform how we communicate with our doctors about what matters most to us.
About the Author
Sunita Puri is an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California, and medical director of palliative medicine at the Keck Hospital and Norris Cancer Center. She has published essays in The New York Times, Slate, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and JAMA-Internal Medicine. She lives in Los Angeles.
Praise for That Good Night
“Visceral and lyrical . . . In a high-tech world, [Puri’s] specialty is not cures, but questions—about pain, about fraught prospects, about what ‘miracle’ might really mean. Her tool is language, verbal and physical. Wielding carefully measured words, can she guide but not presume to dictate? Heeding the body’s signals, not just beeping monitors, can she distinguish between a fixable malady and impending death? Puri the doctor knows that masterful control isn’t the point. For Puri the writer, her prose proves that it is.”
“A beautiful, lyrical narrative that provides great insight on living more fully.”
“Honest and brutal, Sunita Puri’s book is also beautiful and deeply reassuring. . . . [That Good Night] will change how you see mortality and end-of-life decisions, and how you discuss these subjects with loved ones.”
—Spirituality & Health
“Puri writes about how palliative care specialists are working to change medicine from within—teaching other doctors how to talk to patients about their hopes and fears, not just their disease and treatment. Palliative care, she says, gives doctors, patients and their families a new vocabulary with which to talk about the way life's goals can shift when you have a serious illness and how to plan for a good final chapter.”
“Every chapter exudes Puri's compassion for you, as much as for patients. . . . Be prepared for some of the stories in That Good Night to unleash pent-up emotions. . . . In the care of seriously ill patients, you will see suffering. That Good Night will inspire you to recognize and respond to suffering with compassion. Whether caring for patients on your own or with the support of a palliative care team, fluency in the language of suffering will help you preserve compassion in medicine.”
“Sunita Puri’s luminous, lyrical memoir is a literary introduction to the work of palliative care. . . . Puri joins the circle of articulate physician-writers who movingly portray the wonders and limits of modern medicine and the emotional, physical, and spiritual sacrifices individuals make to practice medicine well. . . . Her stories, combined with her sense that we’re guided by a benevolent force beyond comprehension, point toward love’s power and life’s fragility.”
—The Christian Century
“An impressive debut . . . Puri makes you feel (and sometimes sob), but most importantly, she does the hard work of bringing humanity to medicine. Her commitment to normalizing conversations about death, and telling stories about what quality-of-life and dying-with-dignity can mean for patients in their last moments, makes this book a must-read for healthcare professionals everywhere.”
“Puri writes beautifully. Her words make her journey your journey. And tough as it is, her passage—and yours—to acceptance is beautiful. You have to read this book. It will save your life when you need to learn to accept death.”
—The Asian Age
“A wonderful memoir . . . If it reminds you of the great book on this subject by another physician (Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, 2014), well, you’re right . . . [it's] just as clear-eyed, and warmer in tone and tenor. . . . we come home from this exploration not just wiser than when we entered on it, but more fully alive.”
—The Shawagunk Journal
“Spiritually grounded, poetic, and brilliant . . . Puri has claimed her place in the ranks of illustrious physician-writers.”
—Katy Butler, author of Knocking on Heaven's Door
“That Good Night is a timely and important work: an insider's view of caring for the sickest patients and a moving exploration of life's impermanence. Sunita Puri's deft attention to language, both in her writing and in her work as a doctor, is a testament to the power of story, narrative, and context to help us make sense of life and its end.”
—Lucy Kalanithi, MD, widow of Paul Kalanithi, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book When Breath Becomes Air
“Rich with piercing insights about life and death in modern medicine, Dr. Sunita Puri’s memoir braids together beautifully written narratives of her patients with her quest to understand her place in her family and her path as a doctor.”
—Ira Byock, MD, author of Dying Well and The Best Care Possible
“With exquisite prose, keen insight, and endless intellectual curiosity, Puri shows us the ways that dying is woven into living and, as such, deserves not just acceptance but close attention, deep respect, even celebration. This is a lively and fascinating book that will be a crucial part of the expanding cultural conversation about how we think about death. Everyone alive should read it.”
—Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable
“The face of the new generation of physicians, Dr. Sunita Puri’s book reflects the art and craft of practicing medicine. There’s no harder diagnosis to process than a fatal illness, and when it happens you need a doctor with the space, time, and desire to extend empathy. Without that, it doesn’t matter what we mandate, legislate, propose or discuss. With that, Dr. Puri implicitly suggests, we can find out what our patients need to make their dying—and so also their living—easier, better, richer.”
—Victoria Sweet, author of Slow Medicine and God’s Hotel
“A profound meditation on a problem many of us will face; worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“Recognizing the complementary paths of science and spirituality, [Puri draws] upon the strength, support, and wisdom of her family’s beliefs and values—honoring life and accepting death—to help her patients make ‘eleventh-hour’ choices. . . . This is a powerful memoir, which Puri narrates with honesty, poise, and empathy.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Moving . . . Puri’s writing shines . . . An affecting read about the limits of medicine and embracing that which is beyond one’s control. The stories of Puri’s patients and their families will resonate with readers.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“This thoughtful treatise on life, death, and medicine should make readers feel more grateful for every day they have because, as Puri and her colleagues come to realize, no one knows what’s coming or when to their loved ones or themselves.”
—Booklist (starred review)